Strongly centered in a biblical worldview
|Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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Based on a true story, ALL SAINTS is the inspiring, often humorous, tender-hearted tale of a salesman-turned pastor who is sent by his bishop to shut down a dying Episcopal church in Smyrna, Tennessee. But God clearly has other plans in store for the tiny flock when a group of Anglican refugees from Southeast Asia shows up seeking help and a place to worship. With the clock ticking, the congregation rallies alongside the new immigrants to plant seeds that just may save them all.
Produced by Affirm Films (RISEN, WAR ROOM, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL) in tandem with Provident Films (COURAGEOUS, FIRE PROOF), ALL SAINTS opens in theaters nationwide on August 25th, 2017, and is directed by Steve Gomer and written by Steve Armour. It features a strong cast with John Corbett (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, “Sex and the City”) as priest Michael Spurlock; Cara Buono (“Mad Men,” “The Sopranos”) as his wife, Aimee; Myles Moore (“Nashville”) as their son Atticus; Barry Corbin (“Anger Management,” “Modern Family”) as Vietnam veteran Forrest; Gregory Alan Williams (MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN, 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN) as the bishop; Nelson Lee as refugee leader Ye Win; and well-known Christian comedian Chonda Pierce as church secretary Ruth.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
As millions of refugees from war-torn regions continue to seek safety in the West, many nations—including the United States—are struggling with managing the flow. And with the biblical call for Christians to minister to the foreigners among us, many American churches are grappling with what it means to be the hands of Jesus to newly arrived immigrants who face challenges integrating into our vastly different—and often bewildering—culture. In this context, ALL SAINTS offers a very convicting look into what it means to minister to the felt needs of brothers and sisters in Christ who have come from faraway lands, And gently, but effectively, ALL SAINTS asks the question of who is really doing the ministering—us or them.
Beyond this, another highly relevant theme in ALL SAINTS is Proverbs 19:21—“Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” When torrential rains wash away most of their crop—and heat shrivels what little was left—the people of All Saints Episcopal Church struggle to understand why God would lead them down a path to failure. But as is often the case when God leads His people, the night is darkest just before dawn. And the congregation soon sees that while they’re not where they thought they would be, they are someplace completely new—and even more wonderful.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
Throughout ALL SAINTS, there are faith-compatible depictions of key characters and their relationships. In his role as an errand boy for the bishop, Spurlock is initially focused on the details of closing the church—taking inventory and preparing the property for sale. But when his son, Atticus, challenges his father to BE the church to the refugees on his doorstep, Michael begins to sense that God has him there for an altogether different purpose. Here, Spurlock skillfully navigates some tough conversations with his boss—the bishop—who ultimately relents and allows Spurlock time to try and save the congregation with the help of the refugees. While the bishop could easily come off as the hierarchical bad guy, he ultimately makes a big sacrifice that enables All Saints to survive as a congregation.
Along the way, Spurlock is repeatedly encouraged by Aimee to not carry the burden alone. Here, he reaches out to local business leaders for help, but very few are interested in helping out. One man offers 24 jobs at his chicken processing plant in a nearby town, while another fixes the church bus so that the refugee men will have transportation to get back and forth to their jobs. Aimee also jumps in to help the refugees with the many bureaucratic details involved with settling into a new country like setting up bank accounts, managing money, enrolling the children in school, and getting drivers licenses. She also starts a church choir, and in one lovely scene learns to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in the refugees’ language.
Another key character in ALL SAINTS is a crotchety Vietnam vet named Forrest. A refugee of sorts himself, Forrest is socially isolated and a naysayer who continually points out the reality of what the congregation is up against. His heart is softened, however, when one of the refugees offers him a meal, and from that point becomes a major contributor to the church's farming project.
With clearly much to commend in terms of character depiction, one shortcoming in ALL SAINTS is the surprising lack of emphasis on prayer in the storyline. Given the pastoral roles of Spurlock and the bishop, faith-driven moviegoers might expect to see them—as well as the whole congregation and the refugees—press deeper into prayer as they seek God’s will for their church’s future.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
Overall, situations depicted in ALL SAINTS are very faith-compatible. There are many scenes involving the refugees adapting to life in America—including some awkward cultural situations that are treated with dignity and humor. Although everybody at All Saints Episcopal Church is surprised to see 15 families from Burma show up at church on one of their final Sundays as a congregation, parishioners do their best to welcome them. Here, Pastor Spurlock reads about the genocide of the Karen people in the Burmese civil war and his heart softens.
The plot line takes shape when the refugees—who were farmers in their home country—want to plant crops on the church’s surrounding property in order to raise the money needed to save the parish from closure. It is during a rain storm that Spurlock senses God speak directly to him—telling him to turn the church into a farm. Although there are many challenges involved in making this happen—including limited access to water—Spurlock and the congregants move forward with their bold plan despite resistance from denominational leaders.
Along the way, what starts out as a separate church service for the refugees soon becomes an integrated service and the established congregation is refreshingly open to accepting the Karens and their cultural differences. The kids play soccer together and bond in the context of the church choir and Sunday school. And most importantly, everybody works together for the bigger picture—planting and harvesting a crop that will save their church.
Here, planting day is beautiful. Following a “faith of a mustard seed” sermon by Spurlock, the congregation gets busy planting seeds from Burma by hand. The whole church works in rotations, and over the ensuing months, they have to pump water out of a creek into a barrel to irrigate. Eventually, they are able to get a boom sprayer to water the fields more easily, which is timely because a drought has set in on the area.
When harvest day rolls around, an expectantly optimistic congregation fills the pews of All Saints. Together, they work hard to bring in the crops by hand, but in the midst of the harvest it begins to rain very heavily—causing extensive flooding and wiping out the rest of the crop. Worse yet, the harvested crop is also ruined when the bus used to haul it to the local Asian market is impounded.
Naturally, the congregation is devastated. And while questions about God’s will and sovereignty over the situation arise, the church comes together to praise the Lord. And just when it seems all but certain that the church will be closed, an unexpected twist occurs that shows that God’s hand was guiding their circumstances all along—helping them to build their faith and trust in Him completely for the outcome.
Family Viewing Suitability
At 108 minutes in length, ALL SAINTS is rated PG for non-specified thematic elements. Although there is a scene in which several refugee boys get in trouble at school, and another involving a gun which sparks Forrest to recall his experiences in the Vietnam War, overall there is little to object to in terms of content and the movie offers suitable viewing for the whole family with parental guidance.
ALL SAINTS is a solid movie that offers an inspiring story that will touch the hearts of both faith-driven and secular moviegoers alike. It is well-written and nicely paced as it builds toward a key moment when all seems lost but God comes through in a big way that builds faith for everyone involved. And while the cast does a good job overall, Corbett’s portrayal of Spurlock hits the right balance as a priest who starts out just doing his job but ends up stepping out of his comfort zone in faith—highlighting the biblical truth that while humans may make their own plans, it is God who ordains our steps.